Pfizer Inc. persuaded a Pennsylvania state court judge to slash by 93 percent a $75 million punitive-damages award to a woman who blamed the company’s menopause drugs for her breast cancer.
Judge Ackerman in Philadelphia reduced the award to Connie Barton to $5.6 million after finding it was excessive. Jurors also awarded Barton $3.7 million in compensatory damages in her lawsuit against Pfizer’s Wyeth unit over the hormone- replacement drug Prempro. Ackerman left that award undisturbed in his post-trial ruling, according to court docket entries.
Barton’s suit was among more than 8,000 against Wyeth and another Pfizer unit over the company’s menopause drugs. More than 6 million women took the pills to treat symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings before a 2002 study highlighted the drugs’ links to cancer.
Until 1995, many patients combined Premarin, Wyeth’s estrogen-based drug, with progestin-laden Provera, made by Pfizer’s Pharmacia & Upjohn unit. Wyeth combined the two hormones in Prempro. The drugs are still on the market.
Pfizer’s Wyeth unit has lost six of nine jury verdicts, including the last four in a row, over the drugs. Upjohn has lost three cases at the jury stage. Pfizer officials are appealing those verdicts.
Two of the jury verdicts were reversed at the post-trial stage while others are being challenged on appeal. Wyeth has won five summary judgments on Prempro cases and had 15 cases that were set for trial voluntarily dismissed by plaintiffs. The company has won dismissals in another 3,000 cases.
Barton, a retired records clerk from Peoria, Illinois, took Prempro for five years before developing invasive breast cancer in 2002. She sued Wyeth in Pennsylvania because the drugmaker had operations there.
A Philadelphia jury concluded in October that Prempro helped cause the 64-year-old woman’s illness and Wyeth failed to warn Barton and her doctors adequately about the drug’s risks.
The case is Barton v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc., 040406301, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.
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